Monday, 27 July 2009

Fair weather or foul? Umbrella etiquette!

I am reliably informed that it was raining jugs-ful (from the Spanish – llover a cántaros) at seven this morning. I slept through it, surprisingly as normally you can hear it clattering down into the patio. All I saw was the still damp pavement and the still cloudy sky an hour and a half later. It was the bread shop lady, from whom I get lots of weather information, who told me: she had become quite depressed because it was so dark, almost as though winter had returned.

A short time later, breakfast over, I phoned my friend María and arranged to meet for a stroll and a coffee. The clouds were thinning but I took my “just in case” umbrella to ward off further possibility of rain.

(There is a kind of witchcraft at work in this. If you carry your umbrella and/or raincoat, the rain stays away. If I make gazpacho when the weather is hot, the
temperature is guaranteed to go down the next day. The most extreme case I know is that of my sister who finally, after many years of sweltering Andalucía summers, gave in and had air-conditioning installed. Immediately after the installation was completed they had a few days of cooler weather. Enough said?)

Anyway, María and I went on our little paseo, swapping news and making plans for a boat trip to Moaña one day soon, gradually making our way up to the Castro. There we stopped for refreshments at the cafe overlooking the ría, wi
th a good view of the Islas Cíes.

By now the clouds had all but disappeared and we sat under the shade of a sun umbrella. María was somewhat concerned that I might be feeling cold (!) and proceeded to apologise for the weather. This summer, she declared, was not typical; it’s normally much better, much hotter.
I had to reassure her that, in the first place, she is not personally responsible for the weather and, in the second, I am actually quite happy with this summer. And truly, it is a lot better than what I’ve been used to in the Northwest of England in recent years.

However, the newspapers back up María’s view of things. Although June was officially recognised as warm, July has been a disappointment, statistically at any rate. Maximum temperatures for the month have been below average. Only Ourense has managed to get above 30° while the rest of the region has had a maximum of 26°, which su
its me fine. In fact, in view of the forest fires which have raged in Aragón, we should consider ourselves quite fortunate to have some rain. Mind you, La Coruña’s 19° is perhaps rather below the acceptable level for July.

La Coruña also gets mention for having had only two despejado, that is cloud-free, days in July so far, and there’s not a lot of July left after all. Here in the South of Galicia, we are credited
with a grand total of six, which does not sound much. I think, though, that the statistics give a rather false impression.

We may have had only six days of totally clear blue sky, not a cloud to be seen from morning until night, but we have had many days which begin, like today, with cloud or even rain and which, again like today, have blue sky and sunshine by lunchtime and progress into long sunny evenings.

The newspapers are at pains to reassure us that the “odd” weather has nothing to do with global warming or climate change but is just the normal variability of the Galician climate.

Like the British, gallegos enjoy talking about the weather and make jokes about it, as in this cartoon where, as show
ers are forecast, one man asks his friend to see if it is raining. His friend looks out of the window and replies: “Now it is; now it’s not; now it is; now it’s not.”

On the whole people accept the rain as normal (and why not? – we can’t do
much about it!) and don’t mind too much looking foolish in pink plastic raincoats which can be thrown away later. The umbrella salesmen appear as if by magic on every street corner. Cafes, shops and libraries are equipped with umbrella stands.

And the wonderful Spanish folk, who seem not to mind stepping, nay striding, out of shop doorways and bumping into you, who think nothing of stopping in a family group to talk on the kerb after crossing the road thus preventing any other road-crossers from reaching the safety of the pavement, have delightful umbrella etiquette.

As you walk along in the rain with your umbrella up, you see all the umbrellas bobbing up and down or tipping to left or right to avoid clashing with other umbrella-users.

Perfect, apparently innate umbrella etiquette!

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